CULTURE MACHINE VOL 10 • 2009
www.culturemachine.net • 109
Don Joyce, Negativland
The Internet was designed during the dark days of the Cold War by
government scientists and engineers who thought it might save our
lives some day by facilitating the exchange of defense information.
They made sure this new medium would be immune from any
central control point that might be compromised or from any
lockout mechanisms that might hinder communicating within it.
Fueled as it was by paranoia, it is ironic how much paranoia the
Internet is now causing: not on the part of our military/industrial
complex, but on the part of our corporate capitalist complex, who
see this medium as ripe for commercial colonization.
Any user’s ability to subvert commercial gate keeping makes the
Internet quite unlike other mass media. Our almost exclusively
commercial airwaves have turned audiences into passive sponges for
one-way sponsor ‘messages’, but Internet users are participants in a
new arena, able to interact with pure ideas and information and able
to add their own into the mix, uninterrupted by ulterior motives and
uncluttered with deals or conditions. The Net has created the
impression that culture is a function rather than a product.
Music, for instance, is suddenly being treated as if no one owns it at
all. It's as appreciated and sought after as ever, but with no apparent
need to compensate its makers or its owners. This realm of free
exchange threatens all the control mechanisms that define music as a
finite commodity subject to the laws of physical supply and payer
demand. On the Internet, demand takes whatever it wants because
the free copies are virtually infinite, copyrighted or not.
Music ‘piracy’ on the Net has never been hindered by users’ respect
for the record industry - because there isn’t any. The labels’ long
history of greed, their absurdly unfair and deceitful contracts, their